The days of squinting while trying to read the physician’s prescription are long gone along with the bulky files which stored all our medical records. The electronic health record (EHR) has replaced the pen and paper documents, resulting in better legibility and documentation of our medical records. A powerful tool that is helping physicians achieve better care, lower costs per capita and better population health. But, like all good things, the EHR is also prone to causing errors – errors that can be a source of medical liability. Let us look at some of the factors that can be the cause for EHR related malpractice claims at a pediatric setting.
Office based pediatricians use of EHR rose from 58% in 2009 to 79% in 2012. However, interoperability issues caused due to multiple EHR systems and platforms coupled with limited pediatric functionality still prevail.
There is a need for pediatricians to realize that due to these interoperability issues, they do not have access to complete data on hospital admissions, emergency department visits, lab results, subspecialist reports and care provided outside the medical facility. Serious errors in medical management could result due to these fragmented EHRs, resulting in harm to patients and exposing pediatricians to professional liability through malpractice claims.
While nearly 50% of pediatric practices are transmitting prescriptions directly to the pharmacies through the electronic prescription programs, the lack of pediatric functionalities in many EHRs can pose significant safety risks to children. There is a need to verify if the EHR uses pediatric-specific drugs, calculates the correct pediatric dosages, and alerts the provider of dosing errors and potential contraindications. Another problem area is that the majority of e-prescribing programs do not keep information from providers using a different e-prescription program. This can lead to serious consequences for both the patient and the pediatrician.
While copying and pasting information from previous medical records does reduce time and effort to duplicate records – it can also cause tragic results. Also known as cloning, duplication more often than not, results in over-documentation of the actual findings – for example, when the document cites items that have changed or were not examined in subsequent visits. This can lead to damaging the credibility of the record in a liability action for the pediatrician. For the patient, incorrect information from a past visit can lead to incorrect care.
It is important that electronic reports from labs and consultation are examined by a provider before being incorporated in the EHR. Incorrect reports or posting the wrong one can lead t serious medical errors and pose a significant malpractice risk.
Transition, Retention, Contracts
While it is good to move with the times, care should be taken when transitioning from paper to electronic charts. Before getting rid of the old paper records, pediatricians need to be sure that they have complied with all federal and state record retention laws.
Before finalizing the provider, all EHR vendor and service contracts should be scrutinized and legal review secured. Pediatricians need to be aware of where protected health information is stored and the relevant risk of loss of this data.
Some EHRs may be prone to coding pediatric services at a higher level than warranted due to a feature that automatically calculates CPT codes based on the services documented in the EHR. Incorrect coding can lead to receiving overpayments, which may lead to liabilities due to fraud and system abuse.
The majority of pediatricians using EHR find the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Although, adverse EHR events are rare, they do exist. Becoming aware of and preventing potential and real risks of EHR errors is the best policy.
- Anunta Virapongse, M. M., David W. Bates, M. M., & Ping Shi, M. (2008, November 24). Electronic Health Records and Malpractice Claims in Office Practice. Retrieved from The JAMA Network: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/414653
- Graber ML, S. D. (2015, November 6). Electronic health record–related events in medical malpractice claims. Retrieved from PSNet: Patient Safety Network: https://psnet.ahrq.gov/resources/resource/29582/electronic-health-record-related-events-in-medical-malpractice-claims
- Richard L. Oken, M. F. (2016, August 8). Lessons learned from EHR-related medical malpractice cases. Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics: http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/08/08/Law080816
- Spooner, S. A. (2007, March). Special Requirements of Electronic Health Record Systems in Pediatrics. Retrieved from American Academy of Pediatrics: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/119/3/631